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Madelyn Pugh Davis, the TV scribe whose 50-year collaboration with Bob Carroll Jr. included decades of work writing for comic legend Lucille Ball, died Wednesday at her home in Bel-Air after a brief illness. She was 90.
Davis and Carroll, with Jess Oppenheimer, wrote the pilot for I Love Lucy, which ran on CBS from 1951-57 and remains a huge favorite in syndication today. The two then collaborated on scores of episodes for that series as well as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-58), The Lucy Show (1962-67), Here’s Lucy (1970-74) and Life With Lucy (1986) and the 1968 film Yours, Mine and Ours, which starred Ball and Henry Fonda.
Davis and Carroll first worked with Ball in the late 1940s on CBS Radio’s My Favorite Husband. They shared three Emmy nominations, and by one estimate, they penned 400 episodes for television and 500 for radio.
During a 1997 interview with the Archive of American Television, Davis and Carroll reminisced about their partnership.
“We found that we just wrote well together,” she said. “We have the same sense of humor. And sometimes if you’re reading a script around a table, we would put in the same word or the same joke. We never had to argue about what was funny. We just argued about the temperature of the room!”
Said Carroll: “She has all the discipline. I never typed a script in the entire 50 years. I couldn’t type. I walk, I’m a pacer. I pace back and forth.”
Davis and Carroll also worked on radio’s The Steve Allen Show and created the 1967-69 Desilu series The Mothers-In-Law, starring Eve Arden and Kay Ballard, and the 1960 comedy The Tom Ewell Show. They served as producers and writers on TV’s Alice, starring Linda Lavin.
In the Archive of American Television interview, Davis and Carroll recalled how Ball and her husband, Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, asked them to write a stage act that they could take on the road to convince the CBS brass that Arnaz was funny enough to star with Ball on TV.
Ball comes up from the back of the audience and interrupts Arnaz on stage and tries to horn her way into the act.
“Of course, they worked beautifully together and the network could see that he was funny and they said OK,” Davis recalled. “So the they asked Jess and Bob and me to do the I Love Lucy pilot.”
In 1992, Carroll and Davis received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award from the WGA.
Davis became one of the first female writers hired at CBS Radio, seizing the opportunity with many of the men gone to serve in World War II.
The Indianapolis native was married twice; her first husband was TV producer Quinn Martin. Carroll died in January 2007.
Survivors include son Michael Quinn Martin; stepchildren Brian Davis, Charlotte Davis, Lisa Davis and Ned Davis; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Services will be private.
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